By Leah Leybzon, Intern, Maimonides School “What did you think of Donald Trump?”
This was the question that people asked me most after my first AIPAC Policy Conference. While I continued to shrug my shoulders in response, unwilling to verbalize a definitive opinion, I knew exactly what the AIPAC protesters thought about him. Their anti-Trump posters and banners displayed their opinions very clearly. Yes, AIPAC did invite him to speak, but no, AIPAC and many of the organization’s proponents do not necessarily endorse his rhetoric. Like all the other presidential candidates, Trump was given the opportunity to address the pro-Israel community and express his views. And he sure did do that. By inviting Trump, AIPAC followed its pledge to present views from both ends of the political aisle. But my point is this: AIPAC believes in the diversity of thoughts and ideas. It is open to different speakers (including Trump), wide age ranges, and a variety of breakout sessions.
One breakout session that I attended was particularly memorable. Neta, an autistic young adult, spoke about a program in the Israel Defense Force that trains autistic adolescents and young adults to serve in the army. His eloquent explanation of the program’s goals and its impact on his life was inspirational-and very relatable as well. The audience barraged him with questions; some came from young high school students like me who have worked with autistic children, while others came from elderly parents and grandparents who have relatives on the autistic spectrum. AIPAC did not invite Neta to preach anything to anyone; he was there to speak about the socially advanced military in Israel and the benefits of the autism program.
So the protesters were wrong. AIPAC delegates and members do not all support and endorse Trump. We do, however, support and endorse diversity in all forms. Even if the opinionated speaker disagrees with us, we are open to hearing him out. Oftentimes opinions will conflict, but we are willing to put our differences aside and “Come Together” for Israel.